Engaging voices are needed for anything from corporate answering machines to museum audio tours to sleep apps. The more you explore your craft, the more opportunities you’ll find!
Admit it. You’ve been toying with the idea for some time. You’ve always secretly maintained that you possess an appealing tone of voice. Alluring, even. Maybe you bought a snazzy microphone last year, ‘for the Zoom calls’ and during one particularly slow day, you decided to make a few recordings of yourself. Just as a bit of fun, you told yourself. Well, not only was it fun, those recordings didn’t sound half-bad either, did they? You like the sound of your own voice and now you want to share it with the world!
But what now? How do you turn raw talent into a bustling personal enterprise? Audio Quants is on hand to help! Here are our tips on how to become a voice actor.
FIND YOUR VOICE!
Understanding how your voice sounds to others is vital. This will inform the roles and areas of work to which you are best suited. Unfortunately, to do this you’ll need to listen to recordings of yourself speaking. Over and over and over. For reasons unknown, this is an absolutely jarring experience at first but persevere, it very soon becomes second nature!
As an exercise: choose a passage from a book or if you can find one online, a sample script for a commercial. Record yourself reading the piece, then listen back. Once you’ve gotten past hearing yourself, you’ll begin to identify the unique traits of your voice. Ask yourself honestly, is your diction clear enough? Is there enough energy in the reading? Do the sentences flow together? Does your tone match that of the script?
Make no mistake; this is where every voice actor starts. Even those velvety-smooth pros who could sell Christmas trees in January. A lot of hard graft and dedication happens behind the scenes to sound so effortlessly good. Listening back to your voice allows you to hone in on areas for improvement. When you start to receive commissions, listening back to each take will also help you sculpt that final recording that you can stand proudly by.
Understanding the industry
Voice work can vary tremendously so it’s important to familiarise yourself with the many branches. As you continue to find your voice, you may discover that you readily fit certain styles. Others you may need to build towards, but those are challenges to be enjoyed!
Let’s start with voice acting for cartoons and audio dramas. Fun? Duh! Demanding? Very. Creating something so visual with just your voice asks for a lot of energy. The best results often come from acting with your whole body (watch a clip of Dan Castellaneta voicing Homer Simpson and you’ll understand). It can be emotionally demanding too so consider taking acting classes if you haven’t done so before.
The popularity of audiobooks also means a wider demand for narrators. Be aware: voicing an entire book is a commitment. Recording upwards of ten hours of audio can take months to complete. You’ll need to be consistent in your tone, voices and energy levels. Having said that, completing an audiobook is incredibly fulfilling and a great way to keep your skills sharp.
Conversely, commercial voice acting for television, radio and the internet, might only ask for thirty seconds of finished audio. Don’t be deceived! Those shorter scripts can really bring out the perfectionist in you as you obsess over any tiny imperfection. And you should obsess! Commercial work can be very lucrative so it is vital to build and maintain good working relations.
Increasingly popular, eLearning typifies the primary role of the human voice: the communication of information. Accordingly, voice actors need to be clear and direct when voicing eLearning, as well as engaging. With nuanced scripts, eLearning is also a helpful tool in file naming conventions.
The broadcast industry also offers plenty of opportunities for voice work. Continuity announcing for television and voicing imagery for radio provide that familiarity that can entice the audience to stay tuned in. Elsewhere, if you have a passion for informing your audience, on-air reporting is a vital role for those with a talent for working under pressure.
These are some of the obvious choices but the list goes on. An engaging voice can be needed for anything from corporate answering machines to audio museum tours to sleep apps. The more you explore, the more opportunities you’ll find!
Making a reel
A sample or demo reel is a short audio file showcasing some of your previous voice work. Think of it as a ‘best of’ track designed to attract offers. As your career in voice acting progresses, you’ll update your reel as you build up a body of work. However, for newcomers, this is like applying for a job when you don’t have the required experience, and the only way to gain that experience is by getting the job. How can you make a reel without previous voice work?
You cheat, that’s how. Your first reel can be composed of voiceovers for non-existent products, services or programming. Remember, the purpose of a demo reel is to showcase your talent and the qualities of your voice! You’ll find plenty of sample scripts online which you can tailor to your needs. A beginner reel need only be a minute long; that’s 3 commercials back-to-back. And remember: A little variety can go a long way. So choose scripts that are distinct to each other in tone and content.
It’s vital to use quality recordings in your reel. If you are not in possession of the proper recording equipment, consider booking a studio session or using the facilities at a community radio station. If you know any established voice actors, it would be hugely beneficial to have them with you to offer direction and feedback.
Finding work and gaining experience
On paper, finding voice work should be simpler than ever before. Websites like Fiverr and Voices.com allow you to share your reel with the entire world. Elsewhere, you can audition to your heart’s content on Voices123.com. The reality is that these platforms are already saturated with talent. Gaining recognition can be rewarding, absolutely, but it takes a lot of commitment and patience.
Alternatively, consider where you’d ideally like to work within voice acting and ask yourself ‘how can I gain experience there?’. If you aspire to voice cartoon characters, reach out to animation schools and express interest in providing voices for student projects. If you’d like to work in the commercial sector, approach community radio stations who produce promotional material for in-house productions or sponsors. If you’d like to narrate, volunteer to record an audiobook with a charity service for the blind.
These will be unpaid roles, in all likelihood. However, in the same time as you might audition for hundreds of openings on Fiverr and Voices123.com, you’ll have gained experience in your desired area, sharpened your skills, gathered material for your reels and made connections. These attributes open the door for paid work later on.
The home setup for a voice actor
Consider the following scenarios: a radio producer has heard your reel online and thinks you might suit their project. They reached out this afternoon, asking for a sample read of an attached script. However, it’s time sensitive and the producer requests you send your read within the next hour. Do you currently have the means to facilitate this?
Creating a home recording setup means you’ll never have to decline those offers. It’s easy to do and surprisingly cheap. There are three components essential to any home recording setup: hardware, software and environment.
- Hardware covers your microphone, cables, interface, computer and power supplies. Any seasoned voice actor will advise purchasing a quality microphone; it’s an expense but one that will pay for itself in time. A capable preamp will deliver the most consistent audio into your computer.
- Software pertains to the computer programming you use to record and process your audio files. There’s plenty of choice available online, and honestly some of the most user friendly programmes come free. Whatever you choose, familiarise yourself with it in-depth. Youtube tutorials can be very helpful.
- Environment is simply where your studio is located within your home.
Everyone’s living situation is different which means you’ll need to configure your hardware and software settings to capture the best possible audio. This can take some fine tuning. For example, if your setup is near a window, you may experience noise bleed from the outside. In this case, you can lower the microphone’s recording volume. This will pick up less unwanted noise but to compensate, you may need to position yourself closer to the microphone.
Not distinct to voice acting, an online presence can be very beneficial in growing your career with the right steps. Overall, it’s important to create a positive image of yourself. Dedicate time to updating accounts regularly and be sure to upload material that showcases your talent! Below is a selection of where to establish a presence:
- Share your work on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Easy one to start with, I know but be consistent and be professional. When engaging with clients, express gratitude and direct traffic towards their accounts. Use a little creativity; perhaps give a glimpse of how you operate as a voice actor behind the scenes too with outtakes from the studio.
- LinkedIn offers opportunities to connect with your peers and learn about movements within your trade. Joining groups dedicated to voice acting and audiobooks will open your eyes to how a successful voice actor operates and communicates.
- ‘Holding websites’ are a little like agencies: they list an actor’s voice reel and contact information, pending a successful audition and/or an annual membership fee. While this may sound suspect, these websites usually pay for online visibility giving you a greater chance of being cast. Membership fees vary but shouldn’t be more than standard industry pay for a radio commercial. Recording studios sometimes retain voice talent and display their information on the studio website. Reach out with a reel.
- Finally, go all in and build a website for yourself. One word of advice: don’t cut corners. A platform with quality content and an attractive aesthetic will entice clients to reach out. A stale platform that won’t load your reel will drive them away forever.
Audio Quants’ personal recommendation 😉 Have a look here. We are always searching for dedicated newcomers!